CO2 reductions could block circular economy, carmakers warned

The British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA) is calling on car manufacturers to ensure that using lightweight materials to achieve CO2 reductions doesn't prevent circular manufacturing processes.

BMRA director general Ian Hetherington told edie: “More collaboration from vehicle manufacturers will be needed to ensure that the entire lifecycle of materials are considered during the design process.

Reducing CO2 emissions by light-weighting vehicles may sound like a good idea but replacing metal with carbon fibre or composites will dramatically affect how much of the vehicle can be recycled at the end of its life.

“Composite-based vehicles will save energy and carbon emissions over their lifetimes but these positive environmental impacts may be negated when you look at the entire lifecycle of the vehicle.”

Closing loops

Hetherington was speaking in response to a press announcement by end-of-life vehicle (ELV) recycler Axion Polymers. Axion believes that more engagement and collaboration is needed to stimulate a circular economy within the car manufacturing industry, creating demand for recycled plastics and metals within new vehicles. 

The firm said closing the loop in the supply chain would create a more environmentally-sound circular flow of materials with associated benefits for manufacturers such as reduced costs and improved margins.

These calls come following the announcement of an increase of 10% in the EU’s ELV Directive, from 85% to 95%, at the start of this year. 

While Axion welcomed the new target, the BMRA said the target provided a ‘significant challenge, but not an insurmountable one’. The organisation is confident the UK will be able to hit the target ahead of a number of EU Member States. 

Driving change

Hetherington added: “The higher target is a considerable jump and aiming for a reuse, recycling or recovery rate of 95% is extremely aspirational for any end of life consumer goods. Despite the daunting prospect of the new target, the industry is already focused on reaching it. 

“The additional 10% will be achieved through the further recovery of plastics and the generation of energy or conversion to a replacement fuel from unrecyclable automotive shredder residue (ASR). ASR makes up 6-8% of the materials from ELV processing and previously 600,000 tonnes of it was sent to landfill each year.

“We hope that the increasing targets will drive the sector in the UK to take the lead in the advanced recycling and recovery of end of life consumer goods in Europe which will continue to create jobs and encourage economic growth.”

With car manufacturers focused on reducing tail-pipe emissions, last week edie investigated what else car manufacturers are doing to produce sustainable cars such as continuously recycling car batteries and turning windscreen glass into bottles. Read the full feature here.

Lucinda dann

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